Come to the Philippines for a while and you’ll notice that we’ve got 2 distinct seasons – dry (from late March to Mid-June, and December to February) and rainy (the rest of the year). But recently, those distinctions seem to blur into something more like hot and hotter, especially as climate change seems to make our summers a lot more sweltering.
Yes – right now, summer is in full swing, with schools closed and children playing on the street, gravitating towards the delightful sound of the sorbetes cart once it comes near. Like the rest of the world, Filipinos like to treat themselves to something cool to keep away the heat, which to some extent one can get hardly used to.
Whether it’s something deliciously crafted from scratch, grabbed from the neighborhood corner store, or store-bought, there’s a variety of tasty ways to keep yourself cool in the Philippines. Take a look at some of them below.
By now you’ve probably heard of this popular shaved ice dessert, probably from the highly controversial, vegan and gluten-free incarnation sold in Coachella.
But that’s just one interesting twist to this nationally revered dessert, which literally translates to “mix mix” in Filipino. Halo-halo is mostly made of crushed ice and milk, and is mixed with a range of ingredients depending on who’s making it: from red and white monggo beans, ube, langka (jackfruit), sweetened bananas, to a generous helping of pinipig (pounded rice grain), leche flan, and if you’re feeling extra special, several scoops of assorted ice cream.
Opting for a dessert that’s less messy? Try the sago’t gulaman, a mixture of sago (cooked tapioca pearls) and gulaman (a gelatin made of a type of dried seaweed), and a syrup made of caramelized sugar.
You’re bound to find a lot of corn-based desserts in the Philippines too, such as the irresistible Mais con Hielo. The recipe is simple: with a combination of crushed ice, white sugar, milk, and kernels of yellow sweet corn. For a twist, some variations add in beans and sago too.
Filipinos are also huge fans of ice cream, characteristic of the country’s profound American and Spanish influence. The local variant goes by the name of sorbetes, not to be mistaken with the similarly-named sorbet. Commonly peddled by street vendors in their colorful carts, sorbetes is often made with coconut or dairy milk, and traditionally served in small wafer cones, and more recently, bread buns.
Sorbetes often comes in several flavors, such as the favorite ube, keso (cheese), strawberry, and buko pandan.
Guinomis is kind of a cross between sago’t gulaman and halo-halo, usually enjoyed as an afternoon refreshment or after-dinner dessert. Made with cubed gulaman, toasted pinipig, coconut milk, sago, syrup, and crushed ice, it has a unique coconut and caramel-like flavor that’s distinct from other cool Filipino desserts.
Probably the most budget-friendly choice of all Filipino desserts, ice candy is often a hit among young kids and kids-at-heart every summer. It’s a more affordable alternative to branded ice creams and popsicles – as you only need a batch of small plastic bags and your own choice of fruit juice or milky mixture to make it.
From local favorites like buco, mongo, and avocado to more commercial flavors like cookies and cream, iced candy is a bestseller in every neighborhood come summer.